When Ryan Gosling starred in Nicolas Winding Refn’s sock-puppet art-thriller “Only God Forgives” nearly nine years ago, he was last assigned to kill a man in Bangkok. Although it had a fantastic red background and a fantastically foul-mouthed Kristin Scott Thomas, which helped the ominous mood and tremendous slaughter go down, I kind of hated the movie. Naturally, it included Ryan Gosling, who was cast in the role of a handsome cipher with a flair for murder neither for the first nor the last time. In the latest Netflix spy thriller “The Gray Man,” he gives us another one of those codes. This is the first film that has made me think about rewatching “Only God Forgives,” possibly to offer or even ask for my forgiveness.
Although “The Gray Man” was directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, it hardly feels as though human hands have ever touched such a synthetic, soulless bundle of products. It’s practically Netflix Winding Refn; it’s world-trotting comic nihilism for the entire streaming-loving family. It’s full of snide one-liners, blink-and-you-miss-’em foreign locales, and gratuitously unpleasant (if more implied than seen) violence. Wagner Moura from “Narcos,” Regé-Jean Page from “Bridgerton,” Jessica Henwick from “Iron Fist,” and the upcoming “Glass Onion” are among the supporting actors that Netflix has chosen to use.
Despite all of that, “The Gray Man” will first be available to see on Netflix starting on July 22.
The film has even been given a PG-13 rating, which seems a bit lenient for a film in which Billy Bob Thornton has his fingernails torn out due to the violence being largely bloodless and murkily photographed.